No commute. No pesky interruptions. It’s just you, your computer, and a cup of hot coffee. The goal of working from home is a worthy one, but getting permission to work remotely is just step one. You need to lay the groundwork now to make a seamless office-to-home transition. AARP’s jobs expert Kerry Hannon explains what to do before making the leap.
1. Set aside a specific workspace. This helps psychologically, says Hannon, “but it’s also a good thing if you plan to claim a home-office deduction. You’ll need a designated area.” Visit the IRS website for details.
2. Plan to put in face time. “You could be jeopardizing your opportunities to advance at the office because you don’t have the personal connections anymore. You could miss out on promotions and higher salaries, which can rattle right on down to your retirement savings,” says Hannon. Before starting your new arrangement, lay out a schedule with your employer wherein you’ll appear for regular meetings or check-ins, so they know you’re still in the game. If you’re working for yourself, Hannon says the same rule applies. “Meet your clients for coffee,” she says.
3. Reach out to colleagues. “If you’re remote, it helps to squeeze in time to be with colleagues. They might be envious or resentful of your arrangement, so make an effort to avoid bad blood.” Instead of emailing, make a phone call. Show you’re in the trenches, too, to keep up the camaraderie.
4. Stay e-networked. Hannon uses LinkedIn groups to stay active in her work community. “You’ll make virtual new friends and have a place for your work to be validated,” she says, something that’s precious when you’re not getting constant personal feedback.
5. Set up a retirement plan. This is even more critical if you’re no longer contributing to an employer’s plan. Investigate your IRA and 401(k) options, then plan for your bank to deduct from your paychecks automatically. “Without someone doing it for you, it’s easy to spend that money before you invest it,” warns Hannon.
6. Make nice with IT. If you’re switching from office to remote, let your IT team know well in advance. You’ll want to be on their good side on the day you need to issue an SOS. If you’re flying solo, get to know your friendly Genius Bar rep now instead of down the road. “If they help you, say thanks with a Starbucks gift card,” Hannon says.
7. Learn web-based meeting programs. Acquaint yourself with Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Skype, and other virtual modes of group communication.
8. Insure yourself. What if the Fed-Ex guy falls on your steps delivering a work package? Or, heaven forbid, your home office floods? “Look into adding a rider to your existing coverage,” Hannon advises. “It can be as little as $100 per year, depending on your state.” Learn more at the Insurance Information Institute